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Gym and Injuries

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Well, what'd I would give to be able to go back in time to that fateful February afternoon and spot myself. A few months back i had a complete anterior dislocation doing a seated overhead press (which i had no business doing) when I was gassed and had sweaty hands. Dangerous combo, as it turned out. Fast forward to early May and the doc opened up my shoulder to fix all the torn ligament up. Now I'm working on my arm's mobility with the short term goal of being able to do a kneeling push up -- much less bench 2 plates again. 

In short, this has made me kind of depressed. I was alright with it at first -- trying to keep from regressing in growth by lifting what I can without injury, eating well and doing cardio. But after my surgery, it all seemed kind a moot.  The post-recovery week's relaxed, comforting eating came to undo my strict habits of diet -- cardio stopped after I got out of the routine. Lifting, well.... that's been a complete drag. Going from lifting like a lil beastie to short, half-assed workouts that breakdown and spreadout my leg muscle groups over 5 days.... not fun. 

I acknowledge that everyone's journey to growth is unique. Mine just happens to have a hiccup now -- a hiccup I best respect to avoid complications. It's just hard to get back to doing what I know is what I should: eating, lifting and doing cardio within my limits. Considering that my upper body is what I am most conscious about and have put the most effort into growing, now that I can't do squat about it... it's disheartening. Looking in the mirror, I first pacified my concern over lost size by  attributing it to some dysmorphic subjectivity, but I can objectively say my composition has changed. Coupled with my insistent observation of others (of the buff guys my age, of those who seem to casually balloon without as much as batting an eye lash), it's really knocked me into a spiral. 

I'm usually a fairly independent guy. But I figured to write on here for some advice and support. Everyone around me knows me as a fitness buff and continue to see me as one, but I sure don't. I apologize for my rambling. I didn't have a cohesive thought when writing this thread. Maybe I'll end it with these questions:

 

How have you dealt with your injuries, especially in relation to our obsession (not fancy) with growth? 

What would you recommend to kick it back into gear?

 

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That can be really rough.

What I'd work on for the moment, is some sort of difficult technical skill that won't interfere with your shoulder recovery. Perhaps progressions toward a single leg squat. Something where you're not expecting to see mirror gains, but you're improving something that will serve you in the long run and improve your lifting all around once your shoulder is good to go, and/or that is fun and challenging to work up to, and also impressive.

Another thing is to look for SOME sort of exercise where you can go balls to the wall, in your present condition, without hurting yourself. That's my philosophy toward my workouts even when I'm in top form... what is it, today, that I can do all-out in a way where "as hard as I can push" is the bottleneck (rather than form, injury risk, etc.)? Sometimes it takes a bit of creativity or alternative equipment... sandbag carries, sled pulls, safety bar squats, tire flips, log presses... or mixing up sets and reps for a protocol that I can kill. In my own situation, it's not so much that I'll be injured, as it is that my mind-body connection goes wonky and I can't squat heavy to save my life because my body mysteriously forgets how. So I look for the exercise I think I can kill that day. An injury limitation isn't that different. So you may be doing a lot of excruciating drop sets of calf raises until your shoulder is back to form.

But yeah, I *never* do seated overhead shoulder press. Those fuckers are dangerous, as you've learned. Maybe you lucky you only fucked your shoulder and not your spine.

As for relation to the growth obsession, I've had SO many setbacks that I've pretty much come to peace with the "never hitting my dream body", and I've come to embrace it in a sort of taoist way. That is, I don't look for results, I just chip away at each workout, come what may, relentlessly, and results come in their due time.

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On 6/22/2017 at 0:19 AM, AlMacArthur said:

That can be really rough.

What I'd work on for the moment, is some sort of difficult technical skill that won't interfere with your shoulder recovery. Perhaps progressions toward a single leg squat. Something where you're not expecting to see mirror gains, but you're improving something that will serve you in the long run and improve your lifting all around once your shoulder is good to go, and/or that is fun and challenging to work up to, and also impressive.

Another thing is to look for SOME sort of exercise where you can go balls to the wall, in your present condition, without hurting yourself. That's my philosophy toward my workouts even when I'm in top form... what is it, today, that I can do all-out in a way where "as hard as I can push" is the bottleneck (rather than form, injury risk, etc.)? Sometimes it takes a bit of creativity or alternative equipment... sandbag carries, sled pulls, safety bar squats, tire flips, log presses... or mixing up sets and reps for a protocol that I can kill. In my own situation, it's not so much that I'll be injured, as it is that my mind-body connection goes wonky and I can't squat heavy to save my life because my body mysteriously forgets how. So I look for the exercise I think I can kill that day. An injury limitation isn't that different. So you may be doing a lot of excruciating drop sets of calf raises until your shoulder is back to form.

But yeah, I *never* do seated overhead shoulder press. Those fuckers are dangerous, as you've learned. Maybe you lucky you only fucked your shoulder and not your spine.

As for relation to the growth obsession, I've had SO many setbacks that I've pretty much come to peace with the "never hitting my dream body", and I've come to embrace it in a sort of taoist way. That is, I don't look for results, I just chip away at each workout, come what may, relentlessly, and results come in their due time.

That final line seems like a very great personal achievement. I imagine I have to go through my trials and realizations to come to that conclusion and believe it. I acknowledge that I have my limitations as well as set backs, but still dawdle too much in fantasy. 

Thank you for the advice, however. I have begun to test the waters and see what exercises I can incorporate without troubling my shoulder so I can return to exercising my neglected muscle groups. Beside that I have focused on my lower body like never before with different styles of lifting -- nothing radical yet, since most lifting styles incorporate the entire body. At least the more dynamic styles like the examples you mentioned. My shoulder is still regaining functional strength even in the most passive positions. The fun now is figuring out a steady routine consisting of legs, legs, legs and, legs. I guess now some back and arms too.

My recovery is steadily picking up speed, but I am being cognizant that my subjective experiencing of recovery probably outpaces the objective healing. So nothing too crazy. I've somewhat resigned myself to this, which is good. But boy was it a psychological roller coaster i did not sign up for that dumb dumb dumb Thursday afternoon.

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Definitely a big personal achievement. And I get better results that way than when I'm really meticulous. It makes personal trainers go absolutely bonkers when they ask me what my goals are and I say I don't have any and I don't want any. But if I start to set goals, my progress inevitably stalls.

Good to hear you're on the mend in what sounds like a good way. I almost killed myself once in the gym, and escaped just with a pretty banged up hand, couldn't bench for almost two months. You do stupid shit, and you learn from it. (If you must know, I didn't fully think through the ramifications of an exercise I was trying, and slingshot myself across the gym at high speed with heavy resistance bands. Threw myself to the ground to avoid slamming into a pile of heavy metal objects. Somehow didn't break anything.)

Get yourself a sled and a harness if you can, for legs. :)

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On 6/22/2017 at 3:19 AM, AlMacArthur said:

But yeah, I *never* do seated overhead shoulder press. Those fuckers are dangerous, as you've learned.

Is it barbell only that's dangerous? What about dumbbells/smith machine?

Personally I like seated (vs standing) dumbbell/smith machine press because the back of the seat helps stabilize my back. Is there any particular reason why it's so dangerous?

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I've never tried them with a Smith machine (but I avoid that apparatus in most cases). Dumbbell doesn't seem as bad. A lot of the danger comes when un-racking the barbell, when you're pushing a lot of weight from a standstill and can be tempted to really crank the lower back to get that last couple pounds up. There's a lot more pressure on your spine while you're sitting than while standing, and that just makes the problem a lot more crunchy from an unstable position. Worse yet is that the rack is behind you, so it's an even weirder way to put your center of gravity and potentially lose the balance of something precariously sitting above your head while your spine is in a disadvantageous position and you have no easy way to bail from the movement.

I never do overhead dumbbell movements sitting, but probably because I don't find any benefit to that over standing, and standing is better for your back anyways, likely especially when you're loading yourself with something over your head.

Compared to a standing barbell press from a rack, a seated barbell press:

- has a clumsy un-rack and re-rack position

- starts you off partway toward the top of the movement rather than at the bottom

- offers no safe escape from a failed rep without a spotter

- is rougher on the back

- does not allow your feet to "help" out of the hole, as may or may not be desired

- does not allow you to shift your balance to "catch" yourself if the weight wobbles too far forward or backward, as tends to happen when things get heavy

 

A seated dumbbell press alleviates many of those concerns, if you insist on doing things seated. As might a smith machine, but a smith machine introduces all sorts of other issues that I'm not fond of... I'd only ever use that machine for burnout/pump work toward the end of the workout, rather than anything heavy or technique-intensive.

A seated dumbbell press only PARTIALLY alleviates the danger of taking your shoulder clean out of its socket, because a: you're only dealing with one hand at a time and a less unwieldy thing altogether, and b: you had to get the fucker to your shoulder to begin with, limiting how much weight you use.

 

In summary, the big dangers I see...

1) you crank your back or neck trying to unrack it

2) if the weight drifts behind your center of gravity in an unexpected or unrecoverable way, it might tear your shoulder right off (standing, you just take a step back or, heaven forbid, throw the weight on the floor... even if you don't have bumpers, it's better the weight or floor get damaged than you hurt yourself badly)

3) No safe recovery from a failed rep... worse yet, since you're trying to rerack the weight behind you, a failed rep that leads to a failed rerack is excruciating to even think about. Perhaps that's what happened to tim?

 

These are all TOTALLY UNNECESSARY dangers for overhead pressing, and are eliminated by doing the exercise standing up. The starting rack position is very advantageous, the re-rack position is at the bottom, resting position, and there are many safe ways to bail from the lift. And I really don't see much benefit to doing an overhead press while seated in the first place.

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Regarding the smith machine, I would also avoid it and any sort of machine for overhead presses, especially while seated. I know a guy who fucked up several cervical vertebrae using a seated overhead press machine, and I presume a Smith machine would pose a similar danger. Getting it out of the resting position can cause you to tweak yourself in all sorts of funky-ass ways. Your neck and back can compensate for stability in ways that your glutes and legs would take care off while standing. The Smith, imho, is not a machine to use when you're doing anything remotely near your limits. Use it to burn out a muscle doing a move where technique isn't important, if you use it at all.

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FWIW, I tend to do things heavier and closer to my limits than perhaps the average gym-goer, so I'm more acutely aware of where many lifts become dangerous. Everything seems safe when you're doing it without much weight, but when you get tired or ambitious, all of a sudden something that seemed like a non-issue when it was easy can dislocate your shoulder. I recommend with any lift to look at "what might go wrong if I did this really heavy", and 1) choose a different lift that doesn't have that danger (dumbbell or standing barbell press, in this instance), or 2) learn to mitigate that danger (practice bailing from a failed lift, or get a spotter), or 3) make a note to yourself to not go heavy on that lift (so why bother? i just really like seated cable flyes, they feel nice, but I digress). Seated barbell press for me has several "this shit could go wrong and there's nothing I would be able to do about it" deal-breakers, which is why I don't do them.

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My intuition and basic understanding of bio-mechanics really set off alarms when I was about to emulate the exercise that i saw some big boy bodybuilder do online. But monkey see, monkey do, monkey dies or gets fucked up. 

To continue off @AlMacArthur, Smith presses can be potentially harmful fundamentally because the barbell motion is set on a track. There is some variation within smith machines as to the angle of the track sometimes but regardless of the angle, your position to the bar is crucial to how much strain you are putting on your shoulders, back, etc. When you do a standing barbell press, the barbell should be moved in a straight line while your body adjust to stay beneath the bar while keeping good posture. You can't move your body beneath the bar on a smith machine as easily, so any errors in positions will only exacerbate unnatural positions. If you were to do barbell, you should stick to standing as long as you can practice good posture. The problem with seated barbell was that I did not have the freedom to let go of the bar or move away from it in an emergency. Knowing how to properly fall out of an exercise is important too. 

Seated barbell is a good option as said above. I also prefer it because it work on your shoulder stabilizers --- but like any exercise, proper form is foundational. Even in a seated exercise, you can end up curving your back when you're pushing really hard and have it give out. 

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5 minutes ago, AlMacArthur said:

FWIW, I tend to do things heavier and closer to my limits than perhaps the average gym-goer, so I'm more acutely aware of where many lifts become dangerous. Everything seems safe when you're doing it without much weight, but when you get tired or ambitious, all of a sudden something that seemed like a non-issue when it was easy can dislocate your shoulder. I recommend with any lift to look at "what might go wrong if I did this really heavy", and 1) choose a different lift that doesn't have that danger (dumbbell or standing barbell press, in this instance), or 2) learn to mitigate that danger (practice bailing from a failed lift, or get a spotter), or 3) make a note to yourself to not go heavy on that lift (so why bother? i just really like seated cable flyes, they feel nice, but I digress). Seated barbell press for me has several "this shit could go wrong and there's nothing I would be able to do about it" deal-breakers, which is why I don't do them.

its uncanny you just wrote this because I mentioned it in my response. I usually take this into account when lifting because i started with a powerlifting style -- so risk was something I was more cognizant of. 

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